Sunday, June 23, 2013

A little perspective on the privacy issue

I've heard more than one person say "Well, I've got nothing to hide, so I don't care what the NSA does."

This scares me as much as the proverbial government official saying "Well, if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear."  While in the latter case you have a threat from an authority figure hidden in a reassuring deflection, in the former, you have a civilian acquiescing to the encroachment of the police state because they are not exercising any forethought.

It amazes me sometimes how people see things like this and never consider what might go wrong.  It doesn't affect them now, so that's the end of the story, until they're shocked down the road that someone let something bad happen.  Haven't they noticed anything in human history?

You know, I don't have a lot to hide, either, but my concern isn't that the NSA was probably already doing something clandestine under the ECHELON protocols, or that the NSA might be doing something good with its burgeoning powers now.  My concern is that if it's out in the open and appears to enjoy the benefit of being legal, if unpopular, it is going to embolden and empower the government universally to do more of the same.

Whether or not abuses have happened in the past or are happening now, it creates vast new opportunities and temptations for abuses to happen in the future.  This isn't exactly new legal ground we're covering; there are already laws curtailing the actions of government forces precisely in order to minimize the damage to society, whether or not there is foresight to anticipate specific problems.

After all, we don't have the Fourth Amendment simply because Madison said "What if..." and Jefferson responded "Well, just in case...."  The Bill of Rights was largely inspired from abuses that really did happen that the Founders wanted to prevent from being repeated.

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